The Arkansas Dream Center operates as what founder and executive director Drew Davis calls “the outreach arm of the local church.”
“Most churches in America have 200 people or less and a bivocational pastor,” Davis says. “These congregations want to serve their community but simply don’t have the bandwidth or resources to identify what the needs are and then create an effective infrastructure for service.”
The Dream Center does just that, engaging more than 12,000 volunteers each year in projects that range from child feeding programs to week-long mission trips.
Davis says the vision for the organization was born in 2009 while he was employed as an accountant for Arkansas’ New Life Church. He and his boss and pastor, Rick Bezet, discussed opening a Dream Center location near each of the multisite church’s campuses. In eight years, the Arkansas Dream Center has grown to include 10 locations and an annual budget of $2 million.
Davis, who eventually left his position at the church to focus on the Dream Center, says that each of the center’s locations looks a little different based on the needs of that particular community. Food insecurity, however, is a universal need the center addresses.
“One in five children in Arkansas do not have access to the food they need,” Davis says.
The Dream Center partnered with PepsiCo to establish an out-of-school feeding program called Food for Good. Volunteers deliver food to neighborhoods in need and spend time playing with the kids and building relationships after they eat.
“Hunger is often a symptom, but not the problem, so getting to know someone helps us identify the problem,” he says.
The program serves breakfast and lunch during the summer, spring break and school holidays. Younger children are fed during the school year as well. The Dream Center operates 60 to 70 Food for Good sites at any given time.